Can Obama Walk the Line Between Economy and Environment?

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Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

“People don’t like gas prices going up. They don’t like electricity prices going up. And we ignore those very real and legitimate concerns at our peril,” said President Barack Obama in a speech earlier this week addressing environmental policy. “If we’re blithe about saying, ‘This is the crisis of our time,’ but we don’t acknowledge these legitimate concerns — we’ve got to shape our strategies to address the very real and legitimate concerns of working families.”

This is exactly the struggle leadership is facing when considering environmental regulation and improvements, and a line that Obama needs to walk. It’s also a line that is far easier for a president in his last term to balance along than for a mixed Congress where some lawmakers are facing elections in energy industry states. Along with this advantage is the fact that environmental activity is one of the few areas he can work to change without Congress gridlock blocking his path — especially given Supreme Court rulings in favor of his coal policy.

The arguments surrounding clean energy as fiscally responsible or economically stressful are akin to a broken record these days — basically a long-term and short-term breakdown of expenses. There’s the argument that secondary health and infrastructure costs eventually rack up as much financial hardship as technology and changeover costs without any of the advantages. That said, the President has to balance an oft spoken desire to aid the middle class; the poverty stricken families and individuals who are still fighting to recover for the recession and with joblessness, while also supporting policy that opposition argues will have short term detriments to everyday affordability.

In his speech at the League of Conservation Voters Capital Dinner, he did point to one particularly vital international effect that America’s environmental policy would have. Specifically, that while foreign environmental abuses have “developing countries … [with] some of the fastest-rising levels of carbon pollution,” this will only grow worse without a more economically and technologically capable leader to pave the way for other options to become viable.

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